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I have been searching for a windows hosting provider that has a failover for 100% uptime, and I wanted to get your opinions and recommendations on this. Our software will be hosting mission critical data so we need some kind automated failover.

I know that we could rent two dedi servers and do Mirroring, but ideally, I would like to find a windows VPS that would allow us to easily scale up. We need to be able to have RDP access and full control of the server.

So does anyone know of any good hosting providers that meet these criteria or do you have an opinion on the different routes of handling this?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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If you really are hosting "mission critical data" that requires "100% uptime" then you really should be using dedicated clustering with hardware load balancing, i.e. cluster your DB servers with failover and then use multiple web servers behind a hardware load balancer. –  phoebus Nov 28 '09 at 23:39
    
That said, if VPS/Cloud type hosting is important to you, you can use monitoring tools to detect the failure of Rackspace/Amazon/etc server instances, and then use their APIs or other methods to start a new node. This still isn't the same as a true HA bare-metal cluster solution, though. –  phoebus Nov 29 '09 at 0:31
    
@phoebus: And won't get you anywhere near 100% availability... –  womble Nov 29 '09 at 1:35
    
Thanks everyone. I meant to put near 100% uptime, since I know that 100% is unachievable. I also should have specified "hardware uptime" since most hosting providers do a good job with their network, so I am just mainly worried about the hardware failing. So does anyone have any recommendations for a high-availability VM hosting provider in the US that is scalable and reasonably priced? –  zasyatkin Nov 30 '09 at 15:17
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3 Answers

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Actual 100% uptime is stupendously hard to achieve -- in theory, you need redundant failover planets. If what you're actually after is "service can survive hardware failure", then you can either cluster all your services, or look into a provider that does High-availability VMs (which you allude to wanting in your question).

The benefits of a high-availability VM are that you don't need to deal with any of the complexities of clustering inside your Windows machine. The services don't need to know anything about failing over or replicating data, which simplifies configuration and management immensely.

"Cloud" providers like Amazon EC2 can effectively do a HA VM setup, because if the node that an instance is on fails, you can detect that occurance and start the instance again on another node. EC2 won't automatically detect when a node crashes and start the instances back up elsewhere, but there are plenty of monitoring tools that can handle this requirement.

The place I work at, Anchor Systems, is also rolling out a managed HA VM product. I don't know of any other "traditional" hosting companies that have something like this, but then my job is to make this stuff work, not do the competition analysis. It wouldn't surprise me if someone else has something going on for this, though.

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I think you misunderstand what 100% uptime means. It doesn't mean that if one server goes down you have a failover. It means every single link in the chain has a redundant counter part. From the web and db servers, thats the easy part, there are hundreds of points of failure. Routers, firewall, incoming link getting severed, power failure at datacentre, fire at datacentre, earthquake etc etc. So for a start you would need to have your data hosted in multiple geographically disparate data centres, with multiple internet connections, from different tier 1 providers. You can't ever promise 100% uptime. You should read up on the "nines" of uptime, and see the enormous difference between 99% uptime and 99.999% uptime - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uptime

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You will not find a hosting provider that will guve you a 100% (or even 99.999%) uptime AND give you full control and RDP access to the box. You might take a look at an MSP to help you manage whatever hardware you pick, and help you get to 99.999% reliability. An MSP will allow you far more control over the parameters of the system and the SLA than a hosting provider. They will also give you the 24 hour on call that would be required when a node of the cluster fails.

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